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The six Air Self-Defense Force C-130 transport planes that were on standby in Singapore to evacuate Japanese from Indonesia flew back home Thursday afternoon after their mission was called off.

The transports had been on alert and preparing to airlift Japanese from Indonesia to Singapore. But the government decided Tuesday to withdraw the ASDF planes because the crisis in Indonesia has subsided.

On Thursday, the ASDF transport unit, with 209 troops aboard, returned to its Komaki base in Aichi Prefecture via Manila. “Fortunately, you did not need to transport our citizens (out of Indonesia). I hope the experience gained by the unit will be shared by all elements of the Self-Defense Forces, as more Japanese abroad may be involved in regional crises in the future,” Hiroyasu Kurihara, parliamentary vice minister for the Defense Agency, told the ASDF transport unit at the base on behalf of agency chief Fumio Kyuma.

To cope with such scenarios, the government has submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the SDF law so that ships, along with ship-borne aircraft, can be dispatched for noncombatant evacuation operations.

The dispatch of the ASDF transport unit and two Maritime Safety Agency patrol ships to Singapore is widely believed to be a government effort to set a precedent for expanding SDF activities overseas as well as to demonstrate its crisis management skills.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry eased its alert Thursday for Japanese nationals in Indonesia and tourists bound for the Southeast Asian country. The ministry downgraded the alert level from 4 to 3, requesting that Japanese defer travel to Indonesia for any purpose and Japanese nationals in Indonesia pay close attention to the situation.

The ministry made the announcement because it believes the situation in Indonesia is calming now that a new administration under President B.J. Habibie has been established.

The level 3 warning is the third highest on the Foreign Ministry’s five-tier danger scale. The level 4 warning urged families of Japanese workers in Indonesia to leave the country. The maximum warning is 5, under which all Japanese in a foreign country are advised to evacuate.

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